You may have seen all sorts of action in the wild from elegant sunrise marches of giraffes to the deadly predator attacks. There is one tiny creature however in the bushes of Tanzania, which will amuse you with its movement. We recently saw a rolling ball of dung for miles during a walking safari and we could not stop chuckling. The insect behind the ball in motion was none other than a mere 2 inch dung beetle. Curious, we could not stop asking questions to our expert safari guide. Here is what we learned about this dung loving insect.
What’s in the name?
An African dung beetle is perhaps named after its fascination for manure. In fact, dung beetles are always on the look for poop of elephants, giraffes or zebras among the many herbivores. There are three main categories of dung beetles; tunnelers, dwellers and roller with dark brown bodies with lustrous bodies popularly found in Tanzania. The lives of these beetles literally revolve around the dung of animals and hence the name is mainly derived from its behaviour.
Rolling it like a Pro?
Courtesy: BBC One
As playful at it looks, it is interesting to see how a dung beetle can create a perfectly shaped ball from the scattered manure and keep rolling it for miles. The small yet robust insect uses its head and forelegs to first collect all the dung it can with its strength and forms it into a ball. To bring it into motion it then uses its hind legs to push it forward while moving its body backwards. Looks likes too much of hard work? The dung beetle does it effortlessly moving the ball in a straight line.
Weight Lifting Champions
In all admiration, the strength of a dung beetle is incredible. For one reason, they are tiny and can lift dung balls 10 times their own body weight on an average. And they can go keep on pushing the ball for miles until they find a suitable soil condition. A record breaking dung beetle is known to have carried at least a ball of more than 1,441 times its own weight. That is truly startling for a small insect if we imagine a human carrying truck weighing tonnes.
One, two or more?
Sometimes you may see a beetle assisted by another. Does one lack stamina? Sometimes dung beetles fight to grab the dung balls. Often the female accompanies the male to help to push the ball by smoothing, patting and kneading it to perfection. She then looks for a perfect spot to rest it on the ground and forms a hollow to lay her eggs and covers it with soil to protect the next generation. Once the lava hatches, it will eat away the dung. Some dung beetles hide their eggs below the ball.
A day in the life of Dung Beetle Parents, Courtesy: National Geographic
Eco- Cleaners. Did we hear that right?
You may wonder did the beetle not find anything better than dung? Our safari guide tells us dung beetles are born to clean up the dirt in the environment. We were not surprised to know this when we failed to spot any flies around the animal poop. Dung beetles don’t only help to clean the mess around. They help to deposit the fresh manure useful to fertilize the soil thereby improving the nutrients and soil structure. They will hence keep the dung ball rolling until they spot some soft soil. Some countries have also imported dung beetles to clear up dirt and replenish the soil.
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